Build N-plant in 2 years’ time : Jakarta agency

Call comes less than 3 months after Habibie sets 2030 date

LESS than three months after Research and Technology Minister B.J. Habibie said that Indonesia would not develop a nuclear power plant until 2030, the country’s national atomic-energy agency (Batan) is recommending that the government build one in two years’ time.

Batan chief Iyos Subki told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the proposal for a nuclear plant to be in operation by 2006 was based on Indonesia’s future energy needs.

“It is only a matter of time before we build such a plant. We cannot avoid going nuclear because the demand for energy is growing in Indonesia,” he said.

He said research by Batan showed that by 2015 Indonesia was projected to require 35,000 additional megawatts of power to provide industries and homes in Java and Bali with electricity.

The planned nuclear plant on the slopes of the dormant Muria volcano on the northern coast of densely populated Central Java will provide around 7,000 megawatts.

Mr Iyos said that annual electricity consumption now stood at 400 kilowatts per capita. But he anticipated this to increase ten-fold to 4,000 Kw early next century.

He said oil now provided 60 per cent of the country’s energy requirements, and coal, 25 per cent. The remaining needs were met by other fuel sources, such as hydro-electricity.

In 2019, if a nuclear plant was in operation, it would provide 10 per cent of the country’s electricity needs, with coal supplying 60 per cent and gas, 25 per cent, according to studies by Batan.

He said: “We cannot depend on two or three kinds of fuel only. This could speed up the depletion rate of such sources.

“To guarantee energy security, we need to diversify and look at other sources of power. At this point, the nuclear option is the most logical and practical one for this country.”

Mr Iyos’ optimism in going nuclear comes after several contradictory statements by Dr Habibie. In March, he said that the plan to build such a plant might be postponed until 2030 because of the discovery of natural gas reserves.

A month later, he said President Suharto had passed a law to let the government develop one by 2006. A few days after its passage, he said Indonesia would go nuclear “only as a last resort”.

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